‘I’ is for Inclusion

Over lunch with a senior industry figure, the topic of Diversity and Inclusion came up. We both recognized that these are ‘words of the moment’ and reports such as McKinsey’s “Delivering through Diversity” in January 2018 have fanned the flame of that conversation, suggesting a link between Diversity and company financial performance. However, in the course of our conversation, we came to the conclusion that while the talk about diversity was all well and good, what really mattered was inclusion. Whether one is talking about gender, culture, age or even neurodiversity, it is inclusive practices that provide the solution for a company’s lack of diversity.

Let me explain.

Undoubtedly, the Insurance industry continues to lack diversity, particularly amongst management and leadership teams. This is largely a result of the general culture that exists and has existed for many years, across the industry. Therefore, it is for a good reason that there’s a continuing conversation around gender diversity as it affects around 50% of the workforce. We also know, according to McKinsey, that companies in the top-quartile for gender diversity on executive teams are “21% more likely to outperform on profitability, and 27% more likely to have superior value creation.” There are, therefore, clear commercial reasons to build more gender diverse Boards and leadership teams.

Yet despite the compelling commercial arguments, lack of diversity remains.

In our opinion, the only way to address a lack of diversity is to drive culture change. This can be achieved by building more inclusive teams. This, in turn, drives culture change, enabling innovation and more creative thinking.

But how do you create a more inclusive culture? According to the ABI’s report, “Tackling the gender seniority gap”, there are a number of steps which can be taken.  Firstly, firms need to make it easier for part-time or formerly part-time employees to make career advances. This can be achieved by making more senior jobs available on a part-time or job share basis, whilst also encouraging and standardising flexible working practices. Secondly, working to change ingrained behaviours that favour male characteristics and promote unconscious bias will improve the situation measurably.

At Norman Broadbent, we’re proud of our impactful work in this space. Our proven interventions, underpinned by our Insight Practice, help clients promote a D & I agenda by identifying and attracting female talent and providing gender-specific market intelligence to support strategic decision-making. In January 2019, we will be hosting a business breakfast aimed at Insurance industry leaders and opinion formers. Here, we will discuss and share in confidence, our experiences of implementing changes to working environments which create and foster more inclusive cultures. This, in turn, supports female career progression and retention.

If you would like to learn more about our D & I expertise or attend January’s breakfast, please contact David Cooper on +44 (0) 20 7484 0110 or at david.cooper@normanbroadbent.com

 

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Financial Controller 2.0 – are they out there?

What factors do you consider when hiring a Financial Controller? We all know that the role is rapidly evolving and has moved away from just ‘number crunching’ as EY’s classic 2008 report “The changing role of the Financial Controller” highlighted. Today, leading a smoothly running finance department is a given. In addition to traditional accounting and cost centre management roles, the modern-day Financial Controller is increasingly becoming a catalyst for change, working with the CFO and other departments in the analysis and origination of strategic solutions. As a consequence, the role is more three dimensional than it was in the past and factors considered in hiring decisions are increasingly complex and varied. When discussing the appointment of a Financial Controller with our clients, two of the biggest themes that come up are the impact of technology on real-time data and the changing relationship between the Financial Controller and the CFO.

These days, investors and business owners increasingly have the expectation of thorough and real-time information and Financial Controllers are ever more working alongside operational managers to provide this. Blockchain technology and the rise of Artificial Intelligence have the potential to revolutionise both the automation of transactional processes and corporate reporting, enabling transactions to be recorded and reported in real time. Therefore, it is no longer enough to find someone who is simply competent in assimilating and reporting information. Instead, the modern-day Financial Controller must work critically with technology and identify, analyse, interpret, and communicate data in the right language at the right time.

The second factor that has had a significant impact on the role of Financial Controller in the last decade or so is the shift in the role of the CFO. Today’s CFO is expected to sit alongside the CEO and take a strategic role in guiding key business initiatives traditionally aligned with other C-Suite positions. This has had a knock on effect on the Financial Controller function as responsibilities previously held by the CFO have been passed down. As a result, Financial Controllers are increasingly at the heart of the business, applying their analytical and business skills to more strategically orientated issues.

Because of these changes, the factors one must consider when hiring a Financial Controller are more complex than in years gone by. This complexity, paired with fierce competition for top performers, means it is often hard to find candidates with the unique set of skills needed. As a result, we are hearing from a large number of clients who are failing to appoint Financial Controllers through direct advertisements, internal talent teams, and contingent recruiters. Norman Broadbent Solutions’ omnichannel approach ensures that clients’ brands are managed carefully. No stone is left unturned identifying the best talent and this helps our clients outperform their competitors when it comes to hiring the best in class Financial Controllers and senior finance professionals.

If you would like to discuss this topic in greater detail or find out more about how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us for an initial and confidential conversation. For more details contact Wayne Poulton  on+44 (0) 20 7355 6941 or wayne.poulton@normanbroadbentsolutions.com

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Market Trends and Updates: Finance Interim Management

With Q3 behind us and Christmas fast approaching, we wanted to provide you with a market update of the past quarter and some Q4 trends we see in the finance division of our interim management practice.

In Q3, we experienced significant demand from clients across the Retail and Manufacturing sector. Increasingly, we found that significant reviews of business operations and target operating models were underway as clients face ever-increasing international competition. Many clients used management consultancies to undertake these reviews as opposed to relying on existing internal talent. This was based on a belief that whilst an incumbent’s business knowledge is second to none, clients felt they may lack much-needed objectivity.

Another key demand seen in Q3 was driven by clients outside of London. We found that this group of clients struggled to recruit the calibre of individual who could bring both cognitive diversity and new experiences to their leadership team. As a result, our Interim Management Practice saw an increase in demand for candidates with strong pedigrees in FP&A, Commercial Finance, Audit, Finance Transformation, and Financial Control. This demand was linked to Finance Directors having to make significant improvements across areas such as business partnering, management information, and customer engagement. As argued by my colleague Wayne Poulton, this often prompted clients to recruit individuals with out-of-sector experience.

With even more Brexit uncertainty and low retention rates, securing the right talent at the right time is challenging. Interim Managers have been increasingly used by many regional businesses as an immediate short-term solution to bridge the gap between the demand for expertise and the need for a timely solution. We have seen a growing demand for Interim Professionals across Treasury, Audit, and Tax and FP&A. This growth has been due to the need to integrate dynamic technologies into reporting processes, as well as to provide data-hungry businesses with real-time analysis.

Clients are also raising their candidate expectations. Whilst they continue to look for candidates with strong technical capabilities, they are also increasingly looking for greater commercial acumen. In a world of uncertainty and rapid tech development, our clients are seeking out those leaders who possess both technical know-how, and the ability to integrate technology seamlessly into a commercial context.

We know many clients who have achieved significant outcomes and cost savings by deploying Interim Management Solutions as opposed to outsourcing to the ‘Big Four’. If you would like to hear more about how we may be able to help you or to discuss a particular assignment, please contact Jonathan Stringer of Norman Broadbent Interim Management for an initial confidential discussion on +44 (0) 020 7484 0036 or at jonathan.stringer@normanbroadbentinterim.com

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De-risking the ‘New FD’ with the Appliance of Science

Whilst much has changed since The Seven Hats of the FD was published (ICAEW, 2011), its key themes still resonate. The authors sought to foresee how the role of the Finance Director would evolve as well as how the individual skill set, profile and characteristics would need to change to meet these new demands. In summary, they argued the ‘New FD’ should be a:

  • Storyteller: Creator of a clear narrative for internal and external audiences.
  • Co-pilot: Partner to the CEO with a complementary skill set.
  • Magistrate: Arbiter of disputes and enforcer of the law.
  • Consigliere: Trusted counsel offering advice at the highest level.
  • Engineer: Master of processes and systems; architect of business models.
  • Muse: Promoter of fresh thinking and value-enhancing decisions.
  • Rescue service: Identifier of problems and presenter of solutions.

 

Similarly, Dun & Bradstreet released a study in 2017 entitled The Evolution of the Modern Finance Leader, which supported the trends noted in a recent Norman Broadbent Group White Paper. In summary, Dun & Bradstreet noted the following:

  • Great Expectations: The face of finance is changing at a rapid pace.
  • Under Pressure: Finance leaders are under pressure to do more with less.
  • Smarter Decisions: Finance leaders must fuel growth with data.
  • High Risk: Finance Leaders face the danger of conflicting priorities.

 

In effect, Dun & Bradstreet argue that today’s Finance Directors are not handing over financial guardianship, but are being asked to do more to contribute to business growth. Many would argue this is nothing new; however, the message is ‘less time spent down in the weeds and more time looking ahead’. Finance Directors have to become more comfortable with uncertainty, drive change and be more accepting of radical solutions. Naturally, no one is advocating a complete reversal of their instinctive conservatism, however there are clearly occasions when a ‘low-risk/no-risk’ default position may not be best.

 

Alongside technical acumen, commercial and leadership intelligence are critical in ensuring Finance Directors play the combined roles of strategist, operator, leader, steward and catalyst for change. With these increasing demands, it is becoming more challenging for businesses to find the right mix of skills, attitude and competencies when appointing a Finance Director. Boards find it difficult to prioritise which competencies are most critical to business success and even when they do, assessing candidates based solely on the most rigorous interview process is far from perfect.

 

Due to the many challenges associated with recruiting a Finance Director, many businesses (and recruiters) often simplify the process by interviewing individuals with appropriate experience, shortlisting candidates based on personal ‘fit’. For an increasingly complex and demanding role, this is a flawed process that can lead to poor hiring decisions. More sophisticated businesses have integrated assessment not only into their recruitment process, but also for future development and succession planning purposes. This means forward-thinking businesses are increasingly using assessment when appointing Heads of FP&A, Financial Controllers, Finance Managers, Finance Business Partners and other senior finance roles.

 

At Norman Broadbent Solutions, we ensure Psychometric Assessment is a key part of our Search methodology. Using our in-house expertise, we deploy the most optimal Assessment approach. Typically, 2-3 candidates are taken through an Assessment process to remove subjectivity and help optimise hiring decisions. Even where the best candidate for the role is clear, Assessment is helpful in identifying and confirming developmental areas before an employee starts work.

 

Norman Broadbent Consulting routinely reviews existing and developing Finance Directors for both selection and development. The issues mentioned above – the increasing need for Finance Directors to proactively drive change, to show great resilience, to possess enhanced influencing skills, and the need to take a much broader view of the business and commercial context – are all features we can measure and benchmark. Given that many of our clients have to do more with less, meet year-on-year increases in professional requirements and are faced with increasingly complex commercial choices, the need for effective talent management is more prevalent than ever before.

If you would like to find out how The Norman Broadbent Group can help your organisation, please contact Wayne Poulton, Director, Norman Broadbent Solutions or Stephen Sloan, Managing Director, Norman Broadbent Consulting, for an initial confidential discussion.

 

Email: wayne.poulton@normanbroadbentsolutions.com
Mobile: +44 (0) 7480 15592 
DDI: +44 (0) 20 7355 6941

 

 

Email: stephen.sloan@normanbroadbent.com
Mobile: +44 (0) 77 6320 7094  
DDI: +44 (0) 20 7484 0210

 

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Construction + Digital = Innovation Shortfall?  

Having developed expertise across the Construction sector and Digital function, our experience tells us that the Construction industry is not only short on innovation, but also lacks the ability to challenge and change this.

From a digital perspective, the Construction industry seems to be falling way short of other similar industrialised sectors, such as Oil & Gas, Utilities, and Basic Goods manufacturing. These seem to be ‘holding their own’ against the heavily digitised sectors of ICT, Media, and Professional services. As most Construction firms are low margin businesses, and with many facing numerous challenges, even the largest firms are unable to innovate within the sector. Project planning, for example, remains uncoordinated between the office and the field, and a lack of innovation and ability to change sees many firms still running paper-based systems to manage processes and deliverables.

Is the technology in place to change this?

Innovative technology being used in the Manufacturing and Construction sectors is nothing new. Robotics, sensors, data analytics, and BIMs have already been implemented in process design. There has been small scale, almost ‘proof of concept’ projects implemented. IBM has been experimenting with wearable technology such as bio-sensing, GPS, Environment sensors, and accelerometers to transform Health and Safety within Construction. They have also been working with the Internet of Things (IOT) to make a cognitive and connected industrial machinery ecosystem. This allows for remote performance monitoring, predictive analytics on productivity, and cognitive assisted repair, resulting in improved safety, reduced maintenance costs, reliable availability and increased productivity.

However, it is apparent that in the Construction sector, there has not been the large-scale adoption necessary to fully manifest these changes. Even when there is a defined problem, it is difficult to make a business case. For example, despite the immense amount of data that is created by a complex build programme, there is very little adoption of a real-time data analytic backed dash-boarding technology. Conversely, this practice is relatively wide spread in other sectors like banking, insurance, risk, and technology.

We’ve seen that the innovation is possible and witnessed the fruits of its labour. Yet implementation remains an issue. If there is not a technology gap, is there something else missing?

Lack of Research & Development?

Norman Broadbent Solutions recently carried out research around this question. During conversations with respondents, we regularly heard about the lack of R&D within the Construction industry. The McKinsey Global Institute reported that R&D spending is 1% of revenue in Construction, compared with 3.5% and 4.5% in Auto and Aerospace respectively. The report went on to say that the world will need to spend $57 trillion on Construction to keep up with projected global GDP growth. This not only shows a clear lack of investment, but also a vast potential market for R&D.

When asked why there had been little investment in innovative technology, respondents cited historically low profit margins. Putting this into context, profit margins among the UK’s biggest contractors more than halved in 2015, with the average operating margin across the top 25 firms down to 1.2%.  EY predicted margins among the top tier firms would exceed around 5% by 2020 as companies diversified their portfolio of businesses. With a low margin environment expected for the next few years, firms need to work out how they can innovate under these circumstances.

We have seen several technology firms invest in R&D for the consulting sector (although this is in its infancy). It should be expected that with an advisory firm’s wide client base, proof of concept designs can be built, tested and refined faster than in an end user. However, if this is contrasted against other sectors (technology, retail etc.), Construction is lacking behind even advisory firms.

Respondents to our research argued that there is an innate risk aversion across the industry when it comes to implementing innovation in capital projects.  With the projects becoming larger in scale and more complex, firms have been unwilling to add another variable/risk by moving away from traditionally accepted technology. With new contracts wrapped up with increasingly stringent risk management clauses, it is argued that this is one of the factors holding back innovation. With a lack of risk sharing, more complex projects, and an air of caution, a culture of ‘tired, but tried and tested’ is prevalent.

Does innovation have a reputational issue?

Another factor respondents to our research cited was a reputational problem innovation has in the Construction industry. The memory of historic, failed innovations still lives on in some quarters, which in turn, have slowed the adoption of new technologies.  To add to this credibility problem, digital technology is not perceived to be ‘foreman friendly’. This goes some way to explain the lack of adoption.

What does the right person look like?

As the Construction industry waits for its moment of distribution, getting the human aspect right is crucial for businesses seeking to exploit this time of huge opportunity. Companies who attract and retain digitally minded talent, who in turn, can adapt, implement change and innovation, will have the advantage in a digitized world.

As available technology has not been adopted, R&D has been restricted, cross collaboration has been difficult, and innovation has a reputational problem. If we are able to adapt the profile of the individuals within the industry, we can go a long way to fixing these problems.

To adapt to new innovative digital technologies, a change in business climate must take place first. This can only occur through finding the right management team that can lead this significant and impactful change from within. For firms to change and adapt, leadership teams need to adapt and pave the way for long-lasting and sustainable change.

About the Author

Tony Robinson is a Director of Norman Broadbent Solutions and specialises in advising clients on a wide range of topics including Talent Acquisition, Leadership Assessment, Insight, and Succession Planning. He principally works with clients in the Construction, Project Management and Infrastructure space.

Contact Details:
tony.robinson@normanbroadbentsolutions.com
DDI: +44 (0) 20 7355 6930
Switch: +44 (0) 20 7484 0000

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